Understanding Scripture

It was almost 960 B.C. when King Solomon wrote, “…of making many books there is no end…” (Eccl. 12:12). Well, the concept of the printing press and the resulting millions of books produced today would have been inconceivable to the greatest of scholars living back then. Since the days of Solomon we have made remarkable advancements in the realm of the printed page, and a visit to our modern bookstores would reveal an endless line of ‘Best Sellers’. Of course, man’s continuous search for reading pleasure would render the many ‘Best Sellers’ of today obsolete tomorrow.

Standing tall among billions of books in our day is the Bible. It has been a ‘Best Seller’ for many centuries, and offers both spiritual and moral guidance to every sincere reader. The light and guidance that is concealed within this book has brought life to millions of desperate souls.

However, there is a mystery that surrounds the Bible. The same pages that offer life to one, arouse disgust and death in another. While some have given their own lives to preserve and distribute this most treasured book to countless millions, others have used extreme and desperate measures to bring about its elimination. It boggles one’s mind to understand how the very manuscript that unites and transforms so many lives can be the same tool used for the unprecedented divisions that exist in Christianity today.

I have concluded that, as it took the Spirit of God to inspire men to write scripture, it is absolutely necessary to receive inspiration from God in its interpretation.

Appropriate Application of Scripture

The sixty-six books of the Bible comprise the writings of no less than 30 authors. We believe that each of these writers were called of God to fulfill a specific commission. Their writings were in harmony with their calling, whether it be prophet, seer, king, apostle, or the simple historian. As we read the materials offered to us, consideration should be given to the following:

  • We should never isolate the author from his original setting or the specific situation being addressed. For instance, consider the confusion that may have resulted had Paul’s letter to Corinth been sent mistakenly to Ephesus, or Timothy’s letter sent to Titus? The prophet Jeremiah would make no sense to Israel had he been preaching Jonah’s message. What of Paul forbidding the women at Corinth to speak in church, or encouraging Timothy to replace his water consumption with wine? (1 Cor. 14:34, 1 Tim. 5:23). Although we may use verses of scripture to support a thought pattern being promoted, scripture should always be viewed within its context.
  • Consideration must also be given to the validity of what was said in scripture by screening the authority of the one who spoke. Biblical statements are not necessarily instructions for every child of God to follow, but may oftentimes be mere dialogue. A good example to consider is the book of Job. It seemed that the comforters of Job had many good things to say in their admonitions, yet God rebuked them for not speaking the right things. (Job 42:8). Even the Devil himself has made statements that are recorded in scripture.
  • Other areas that require consideration are the recording and translation discrepancies. First, we should never think that ‘divine inspiration’ means flawless, with no contradiction or error. True, there would be no error if God Himself wrote the Bible. But unfortunately this is not so. Men wrote, and as such, the possibility for human error is likely.
  • Let us consider the gospels as an example. Matthew and John were present with Jesus, yet approximately thirty years lapsed before either of them decided to write their gospels. What of Mark and Luke? Both of these men gathered their information from others. What we are faced with here is a third-party account. We must also consider the possibility of error in the translation. ‘Original Greek’ sounds good, and sometimes bestows respect upon the one quoting it. But the big question to ask is; was Greek the language of the original speaker or writer?
  • Using biblical characters as role models could lead to great disappointment. We often say, ‘But Paul or Peter never did it that way.’ Well maybe so, but they were men like us: fallen, depraved, and going through the process of their own sanctification. To follow the actions of any man of God, whether in the Bible or in our day, we should first weigh those actions against the commandments of God. In reality, Jesus is the best example to follow.

Finally, and yet most important, we need guidance from the Holy Ghost. Because much of recorded scripture addresses situations in different periods of time, we are to open our hearts to the possibility that we also need direction from God in order to address the evils in our day. May God give us scripture for today.